I'm guessing that right about now we could all use a whole lot of comfort. I don't know about you, but in light of what's happening in our country and world, I've been feeling kind of powerless and down lately, so what a pleasant surprise to find that reading through Tracey Medieros' latest, The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, would leave me feeling inspired, soothed and recharged. Not to mention immensely satisfied in the taste department! This Late Winter Cottage Pie is the ultimate in comfort food and entirely deserving of Famous Friday treatment. This Friday it's all about the Green Mountain state!!
This is the not the first time I've done a Famous Fridays post on one of Tracey's cookbooks. I first featured her book, Dishing Up Vermont, and these terrific Maple Apple Waffles. This new cookbook, aside from being chock full of enticing Vermont-ish recipes (can't wait to make the Meatball Banh Mi with Maple Sriracha Mayonnaise and the Maple Pudding, among others) focuses on the small farmers and food preparers in Vermont who are taking back the power and control regarding the health and quality of the food they produce (and eat) by supporting the Non-GMO movement (in case you're not sure about it, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, so non-GMO is a back-to-the-way nature intended things grassroots effort). While I don't know everything about what's being done to our food on a mass scale in terms of genetic modification, what I have read makes me think it's a good idea to stay clear (as much as possible, at least when you eat at home) of products containing GMO's. That might mean spending a bit more money to buy organic or specialty foods, but in the end, I do think it's worth it. In any case, it's a cookbook worthy of your attention, about people who really want to make the world better and that's something we all need now!! Besides, how can you not love a state that's home to Ben and Jerry's?!!
Now, onto this wonderful savory pie, which reminds me a lot of a shepherd's pie but with some twists. First off, the topping, rather than being purely made from potatoes, is an interesting mix of potatoes, turnips and parsnips, which makes it lighter and a whole lot more flavorful. And that grated cheese that gets gooey covering it all? Irresistible!!
Rather than the traditional lamb version, this cottage pie filling is beef-based and full of veggies like, carrots, mushrooms, peas and onions. Don't let the long ingredient list, intimidate you. Most are pantry staples and none require any fancy prep and the whole thing comes together in one pan on top of the stove. Plus you can totally make the filling, (really even the entire casserole) ahead of time and simply reheat. So nice to know you have this warm goodness to come home to on nights that are still pretty chilly!
And of course the best part is the taste! Every bite is that wonderful mix of potato/veggie topping and rich, savory, meaty filling. It's hearty without being heavy and just what you'd expect to get in some cozy Vermont tavern! Warms you body and soul!!
So if you're looking for advice and some great recipes for how to eat more responsibly and sustainably, pick up a copy of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook and take a trip (virtual or real) to that maple syrup lovin' state. I promise it'll be delicious! And have a great weekend--those of us here in the Northeast are bracing for a Nor'easter (fingers crossed we don't lose power!!). Wherever you are, stay safe, eat lots of yummy, comforting foods with those you love and I'll be back next week with more tasty talk as we slog through the last few weeks of winter. Now there's something to be positive about. Happy March!!
The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook's Late Winter Cottage Pie-Famous Fridays
Makes at least 8 servings
Prep Time for Potato topping: 30 minutes (most of this is for the potatoes and veggies to boil though); Prep Time for filling: 25-30 minutes; Bake Time: 45 minutes
For the topping
- 1 1/2 pounds organic Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 1-2 purple top turnips, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup organic heavy cream, warmed slightly in a small pot on the stove
- 2 tablespoons organic butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided (use less if you use salted butter)
- Black pepper for seasoning
For the filling
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
- 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I used Parmesan--cheddar would be good too)
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.
2. To make the topping: Place the potatoes, turnips, parsnips and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then lower the heat and cook for about 20 minutes until veggies are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain in a colander and return to the pot. Add the cream and butter and use a potato masher to to incorporate everything so that you get a smooth mixture. Season with remaining salt and a dash or two of pepper and set aside.
3. While the potatoes are boiling, you can start the filling. Heat the oil in a large deep saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Add in the onions and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until onions are soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the beef and stir, breaking up any clumps, letting the meat brown--anywhere from 7-10 minutes. Pour off some of the fat and add in the peas. Stir and let cook for 2 minutes. Then add in the butter and stir, until melted. Add the flour, garlic, parsley, basil and cook, stirring well for about 2 minutes. Then pour in the broth and add the tomato paste and lemon juice and stir well. Let cook for a few minutes until the liquid begins to thicken a bit. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
4. Transfer the filling to the baking dish and smooth it out evenly. Then top with the mashed potato mixture, smoothing it out so that it's evenly dispersed across the top. To catch any potential drips, place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until filling is very hot and cheese is melted and edges are beginning to turn golden brown.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook by Tracey Medieros via Shadow Creek Farm. I left out the oregano and used ground beef instead of a half and half mix of ground pork and beef. This is one of those recipes you can definitely tinker with in terms of veggies and spices.